[OPE-L:2121] On the debate between Alan and Simon

mktitoh@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp (mktitoh@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp<"mktitoh@e.u-tokyo.ac.jp">)
Thu, 9 May 1996 04:16:46 -0700

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Tahnk you Jerry, for your provocating my comments on Alan's arguments
[OPE-L:2088]. I read Simon's reply to Alan [2118] too. Jerry says that
Alan's interpretation is different from mine in the Basic Theory of
Capitalism (1988). Yes and no.

My view rather coincides with Alan's when he doubts the logical-historical
interpretation esp. based upon an assumption of simple commodity producers'
society. I can also agree with Alan that the origin of surplus value can be
shown without assuming the pure form of sale at value (value-prices), and
that the commodity economy existed broadly and from long ago without
forming a capitalist society.

However, I am afraid that Alan consciously or unconsciously tends not to
make use of Marx's original dual conception of value, i.e. the forms of
value and substance of value. Thus Simon critisizes Alan by saying,
'I think that Marx is very clear.
1. The substance of value is labour.
2. The measure of the magnitude of value is labour-time (SNLT etc)
3. The form of value is exchange-value.

In the absence of technical change etc., why is v=va+l ridiculous? To say
this seems to me to identify value with value-form, or substance with form,
or essence with appearance if you like. Others have gone down this route in
the past, but Marxists have (traditionally anyway) never been happy with
the results.'

Let me revise 2, and 3 somewhat in order to clarify the necessary points;
2. The measure of the magnitude of the substance of value is labour-time.
3. The form of value is exchange value and usually its magnitude is
expressed in terms of prices.

We had better consider beyond mere interpretation of Marx, under what
conditions direct proportionality can hold between the substance and the
form of value, or labour embodied and prices of labour products. Alan's
interpretation of Volume II- simple reproduction, may be insufficient.
There are at least four cases conceivable (cf.p.132-33 of Basic Theory).
Marx's theory of reproduction scheme showed direct proportionality or
value-prices by ssuming equality of organic composition of capital accross
industral sectors rather than simple reproduction. The case of s = 0 is not
very ridiculous as it serves to show a core logic for replenishing with
necessary factors of production for every branches of production.

Such consideration must be suggestive for theoretical anlysis of the
divergency of prices from the direct proportionality with the substance of
value. Usually the disproportionality would be within the limit of
redistribution of surplus labour-time accross industries, as is shown in
the theory of prices of production. What I attempted to do in the Basic
Theory among others is to avoid to depend on the value-prices or direct
proportionality between the substance and the forms of value from the very
beginning of the theory of commodity till the end of principles of
political economy. The assumption of simple commodity producers' society as
well as the assumptional value-prices would thus be logically avoided.

Even if Alan would like to see a strong influence of fluctuation of prices
leading to a change in technologies and reassessment of labour-time
embodied in machinery, as well as in products, the logical relation between
the substance and forms of value should be dimensionally distinguished for
its anlysis. As Simon would surely agree, the theoretical distinction
between the substance and the forms of value is not the end of the problem.

Jerry, are these comments of some use?

With best wishes,

Makoto Itoh

PS. By the way, Alan and Simon, I am coming to London soon and stay
probably at Tavistock hotel at Russell Sq. during 1st and 5th July. My
Semnar is to be held on the Changing Industrial Structure of Japanese
Economy, 2nd July from 14:00 at SOAS. Costas knows all my schedule, though
he will leave London on 17th June. Are you in London and can you spare time
to chat with me somewhere? This note is for all OPE-L friends too around
London. Will you give my best to Sue, Simon, especially as I begin to be
interested in the feminist issues a little by little.

Simon Mohun,
Dept of Economics,
Queen Mary and Westfield College,
Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS,
Telephone: 0171-975-5089
Fax: 0181-983-3580